Lessons learned from breast cancer

Cancer. It’s one of those words with hard consonants that has the power to send a chill down your spine. Cancer is the name of a storm that many people have weathered. Chemotherapy, a biopsy and one bilateral mastectomy later, Dina Sheldon looks in her rear view to describe the wreckage.

Dina Sheldon, owner of A2 Yoga, and a yoga teacher coming from a long line of educators says she honestly is able to look at her cancer as a learning experience. And like a good teacher, she wants to educate people on what she’s learned.

Myth: Only certain people can get cancer
“If you’re a man, woman, white, black, yellow, healthy, if you smoke if you don’t smoke, if you’re a vegetarian, if you’re not, anyone has the potential to have a cancer in the body someday,” Dina said.

Myth: Higher cancer stages mean more likely to die.
“Stages are not indicative of survival rates. I absolutely recommend getting second and third opinions. If the doctors are saying things that are making you concerned about life and longevity, get a fourth opinion. This is your life. This is not something to be scared about; it is something to be aware of,” she said.

Myth: Cancer patients must maintain a positive attitude
“Cancer isn’t someone’s fault. When you say [have a positive attitude] to someone with cancer. You are shifting a level of blame and a level of success onto them,” she said. “How can I have a positive attitude? I have drains sticking out of me and things coming out of orifices that I didn’t even know I had.” She adds some advice to go with this, “There are other ways to help people with their attitude. What are ways that you can fuse that feel good feeling?”

Tip: To lift someone’s mood…
“A small gift could be really nice. Sometimes leaving soft socks and fuzzy pants by the door is a blessing. These are other ways to lift their mood. If you know that my favorite color is green, and you pick up a card and draw green hearts on it and a salad and leave it by my door.”

Tip: Assemble your team
“Start to put together a care team of friends and family,” she said. And that may not be exactly who you would expect. She remarks that herself and others that she talked to in her support group all had the experience that some people that were really present in your life may disappear and others would come out of the woodwork to help.

Tip: (For Caregivers): Volunteer in some caregiving capacity
Dina recommends getting practice maybe with the elderly, children or even volunteering with animals or at an animal nursery-just practicing caring for something.

For Dina, yoga is something she draws strength from.
For Dina, yoga is something she draws strength from.

Find your inner source

This is an idea that Dina comes back to many times. She explains that cancer awakens a certain level of “heightened awareness” and that can bring into sharp focus the core of someone. Sometimes someone’s nature is tenacious, sarcastic and sassy and she suggests that if that is your nature or inner source, then use that aggressive energy to cope, “Everyone deals with it differently. Each body is so different. With love, we are as unique as our fingerprints.”

For Dina, yoga is something she draws strength from. She wasn’t always well enough to practice certain poses during the treatment, but something she embodied. “Yoga becomes a living breathing entity and how you incorporate it into your life. It’s a way of being,” she said. She adds that considering yoga has been around for 5000 years that “It’s valid and reliable at this point.”

Find your strength

One of the metaphors that Dina uses to describe cancer is a big yard with a fence down the middle. She says now she is on the other side of that fence, but it is always possible to go back. It suggests states of being.

“Cancer taps into your essence of being. When you find your strength, it expands your horizon it expands the possibility of what you can get through and how you can deal with it. Words have meaning. If we give cancer the meaning is life or death, if we give it power then we reduce that power in ourselves. So why are we giving it that power?”

World Cancer Day is February 4, A2 Yoga is hosting an informative workshop for those facing or affected by cancer.

Saturday, February 4. 6:30pm. $35
A2 Yoga Studio, 2030 Commerce Rd, Ann Arbor
734-216-4006 | a2yoga.org

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